Eritrea's Isaias admires Cuba, few hints on future

Thu May 21, 2009 9:04am GMT

* Says Cuba's "resilience" impressive

* Not contemplating a comfortable retirement

By Andrew Cawthorne

ASMARA, May 21 (Reuters) - Eritrea's long-serving leader Isaias Afwerki says he has no role models among fellow guerrilla fighters who have gone on to lead nations -- but does admire Fidel Castro's achievements.

"I don't know Cuba, but I admire their resilience," said Isaias of a nation that analysts sometimes compare to his.

"Being near the United States, and the United States blockading this country for so many decades, how were they able to do it? How was it possible for them to have the best scientists in biotechnology, the best health services?"

Isaias, who led his rebel movement to power in 1991 more than three decades after Castro's rode into Havana, is now 63 and is about to celebrate Eritrea's 18th independence day.

But he said he was much more interested in working on present concerns -- such as food security for Eritreans -- than looking back with the nostalgia some in Eritrea express for the 30-year independence struggle that bonded a generation.   Continued...

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